For the Kids?

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This might be a pet peeve of mine, being an English Major, but it always upsets me when an individual assumes that a kid book means the content is lesser than a "classic.” I find this insulting to the child whom the novel is geared towards and any adult who happens to read the literature. A “kid’s book” can be far more profound than any book churned out to the masses. Think about it.

The messages and themes of Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy (begins with “The Golden Compass”) has more content than an average popular book. Pullman’s trilogy is more than a coming-of-age tale. It questions religion and authority in a blatant manner, yet it is labeled literature for young adults. “The Catcher in the Rye” is also labeled a novel for young adults due to the age of the narrator, yet the book deals with suicide, death, depression, and darkness beyond comprehension. Often children’s and young adult literature is labeled thus because of the age of the narrator and/or elements of fantasy. I will agree that some books written for youth ARE easier to grasp for an older audience and may be simplistic.

However, as seen from examples listed above, the placing of these books in the kid’s category is misleading. These books are sort of like a kid’s movie. On the surface the story might be clean and somewhat funny to hold the attention of a child, but there is an undercurrent of adult substance. Re-read any fairy tale/children’s story from your childhood and witness the horrors given to children to read daily. Frosty the Snowman comes to life with the strategic placement of a top-hat? That’s terrifying! A pile of inanimate snow suddenly given the ability to move? What happens if Frosty wasn’t a pleasant batch of snow but homicidal? Anyway, a reader has to look past the façade and see the subtext. If the “kid’s book” offers more than most books, do not shy from selecting a so-called children’s/young adult’s book for your piece. And if you do choose a “kid’s book” do not underestimate the work required for the piece to succeed.

Cutting and interpretation should be treated as you would a “classic” or “adult” work. Get lackadaisical and your performance will suffer. You can never call-in a performance simply because it’s “for the kiddies.” Remember, labels are just man’s way of organizing a complex world. We categorize by what is easier for us to group, and placing all books with young narrators/fantasy in a lump is quicker than questioning the content. Besides, literature uses a somewhat snobby system for categorizing books. We have the “classics,” for example, which are just a bunch of books deemed better than other novels because some critic ages ago thought it was good.

I love the “classics” but I am not obtuse enough to think all literature ends with these works. Same applies to young adult lit and children’s books. Never underestimate the power of these works. Approach them as you would “Richard III.” Anything less and your performance will be at the level of a poorly done kid’s story: simplistic, shallow, and forgettable.

This is great!  I completely agree with you.  Young Adult Lit (YAL) can be a better read than some of the popular, adult novels that are on shelves.  It all depends on the message and/or author's intent.  

I think the risk though is that by choosing a story from YAL people won't see past the fantasy or young narrator.  It's beaten into our minds that adult drama is the highest form of art, which is not entirely true, and that veering from that risks a rank.  

I mean, who is going to win in a round between The Golden Compass and Sophie's Choice?  Assuming both are interpreted well.  The edge may be with Sophie's Choice because of the adult content.

Just saying.

Some of my favorite books are technically young adult lit.

You're right though...lots of young adult lit deals with heavy topics. Jeeze...look at Harry Potter!

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